When foreign visitors come to Japan, they tend to come here without learning Japanese manners, which is gradually becoming a rather large problem in Japan as more and more tourists are visiting each year. Throughout the past 20 years, more than 10,000 foreigners have visited our farm, both as guests and volunteers. When I accept foreign guests they stay at our guesthouse on the outskirts of my village. As I have accepted many guests from different countries all year around, I have had the opportunity to see the cultural behaviors of the different nations. Some seem to be similar to Japan in their mannerisms and culture, while others are quite different. Unfortunately, some of my own foreign visitors have caused issues and friction with the local Japanese because they did not take the time to learn the differences between their own culture and the customs, courtesies, and etiquette of Japan.
In order to lessen such troubles, I have written this article to help foreign visitors become more aware of the cultural differences Japan may have with their own country of origin. Japan is a kingdom of manners and etiquettes! In Japan there are probably 100 or 200 very detailed customs that should be observed for every 20 or 30 in other countries. I understand it would be difficult to learn all the Japanese manners in a short period of time, but I hope my article will educate you in at least the major points so that when you arrive will not accidentally offend the Japanese people around you and you will have a much more pleasant time overall.
I am not the only one with such concerns. The other day, one of the public polls indicated that over 80% of Japanese people are worried that our security will get worse as the number of foreign visitors to Japan increases. I believe that education is the answer to these. I have been personally encouraging our government to inform foreign visitors of Japanese manners. Otherwise, I am afraid troubles and frictions will continue to occur due to our cultural differences, and possibly increase to the point that many of the positive behaviors of the Japanese culture, including good security and manners, will disappear.
So far, the Japanese government has not taken this issue seriously. They have emphasized only the positive points of tourism, such as the economic effects. In the late 20th century there were only about 3 million foreign visitors to Japan each year. In 2003 our government started the "Visit Japan Campaign" and the figure jumped 5,240,000 in the span of a year. In 2008, when the Agency of Tourism was created, the number of foreign visitors started to catch up with other major countries and the figure moved up to 8,350,000. In 2014, we reached 13,410,000, in 2015-19,730,000 and in 2018-31,000,000. The people who work for this project are predicting the figure can be 40,000,000 by the year 2020 when we will hold another Tokyo Olympics and 60,000,000 by the year 2030.
Hopefully our government will recognize the trends and begin to support education programs for foreign visitors in Japanese manners, etiquette and culture. When you visit Japan, it will be greatly appreciated by us if you respect and follow our Japanese manners.